House of the week

IT’S been just one year since we launched our new-look Irish Examiner Property and Interiors supplement. Since that April, we’ve brought news and shown you some of the very best houses to come to the Munster market.

And, despite the straitened times, depressed sentiment, the lack of bank finance and general economic woes, it’s good to report that there is actually a level of activity in the marketplace, successful sales, a general pick-up in volumes of viewings in recent months — and deals done.

(Even houses and interiors we featured which were not for sale had a pick-up too, for architects, engineers and builders credited in our Cover Story spread, many of whom reported getting commissions and work from positive coverage.)

Just a quick trawl through some of the advertised and editorially-featured houses for sale that graced this House of the Week slot (as well as the single, double and four-page feature slots) shows that there are buyers for quality homes, well-located ones, and especially for bargains and sensibly priced offers.

It’s all down to value, and with prices back as much as 60% from 2006/07 peak, today’s buyers are in a good place, and its getting better for them.

Among the successful sales of advertised and featured homes here was one that graced our very first new product, back in Apr 2011: The 4,000 sq ft home Kitsborough on 70 acres by the Lee Fields was one of the past year’s top sellers, making around €1.7m for Sherry FitzGerald.

They also sold a similar sized 4,200 sq ft modern home at Bayswater, Currabinny, which made around €800,000 (asking €880k) after getting our four-page Cover Story treatment in June. Gone over its asking price, at about €590,000, was an advertised Charlemont Heights Rochestown home, given a House of the Week slot here on p2, shortly after going up for sale in August.

A more recent Sherry Fitz sale just flagged this April with a big Sold sign on the Douglas Road is a large Victorian semi-d, making in the high €400,000s.

Also reportedly just gone Sale Agreed, with a different agent, in Cork’s western suburbs at a c €1m figure was a large detached family home on great suburban grounds of over half an acre, which had a price reduction from the mid €1-2 m bracket of a year earlier. The repricing did the trick.

Out Blackrock, Cork way, Jeremy Murphy got nicely over €500,000 for an extended and upgraded family home at the corner of Crab Lane. It had received a two-page spread here back in May, and sold over 2011’s summer months.

Further out the Blackrock Road, agent Dennis Guerin of Frank V Murphy & Co had a total doer-upper on a great site and gardens in Menloe Gardens. Jaded Bruaidhenabarra made this House of the Week slot, even though it didn’t photograph well. Yet, others read into the potential which we highlighted, and it sold for over €700,000, having been guided at €750,000.

Property websites might get houses out there quickly, but traditional, informed print media is clearly more than holding its own. Savills Cork office director Catherine McAuliffe says that hits on their website spike markedly on properties after editorial print and advertising exposure — so the process of selecting, editing and giving market context clearly adds value and helps to deliver sales.

Case in point was the viewing traffic driven to a house like Coolfree, a modest-sized but upgraded bungalow in the Orchard, off Farranlea Road. We picked Coolfree as our House of the Week in Sep 2011, and it drove over 60 viewings and spirited bidding, well past its €375,000 guide to make over €400,000.

Savills also got over €1m for the late 1700s home Ballybrack on 1.8 acres on the edge of Douglas: it got two pages of editorial and follow-on ads last summer, when it guided €1.2m. Just two weeks ago, we gave a four-page coverage to a wee €165,000 museum-piece of a townhouse off Cork’s Quaker Road in Parkowen via agents Lisneys. By the end of its first week on the market, it was heading up to a dozen impressed viewings as word spread, ever before it hit the web . Bids expected shortly, sale to follow.

VERDICT: In the year since we launched Property & Interiors, the market might be down, but it hasn’t been entirely out.

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